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Posted On: March 22, 2012

MA Supreme Court makes Positive Decision for Workers' Comp Disability Benefits

In a recent decision, the Massachusetts Supreme Court found that workers’ compensation disability benefits could, in some cases, be calculated based on the worker’s current weekly earnings at his most recent job—even if that job is not in Massachusetts.

The controlling precedent for the lower court’s decision in this case was Letteney’s Case, where the court held that wages earned outside of Massachusetts could NOT be used to determine current workers’ compensation benefits. In the case at bar, the court reined in that holding—limiting it to cases involving “out-of-State wages earned after suffering latent injuries (such as from exposure to asbestos) that do not result in eligibility for incapacity benefits for at least 5 years.”

Scott Wadsworth, the plaintiff in the case, was certainly pleased. Wadsworth was injured in a metal rolling machine accident (his right hand was crushed) in 1980 while on the job at a Massachusetts corporation. He received benefits for incapacity from 1980-1988. He then started a job in Connecticut. He underwent a procedure to help the pain in his previously injured hand, which only caused further pain, then applied for permanent disability in 2003, arguing that his benefits should be calculated based on his wage rate in 2003 at his Connecticut job. Wadsworth’s rationale was that “he was permanently disabled from a subsequent injury that was a recurrence of his 1980 injury after having returned to work for a period of at least two months.”

Marking a success for disabled Massachusetts employees, the Supreme Court essentially agreed.

For full text of the opinion, see Justia.

If you have any questions about your own workers’ compensation claim, seek the aid of a skilled MA workers’ compensation attorney.

Mass. disability benefits based on current rate of pay regardless of location: Court, Business Insurance, March 20, 2012

Posted On: March 8, 2012

Boston Taxicab Drivers Sue City over Wage & Workers’ Comp Concerns

Real “employee” versus “independent contractor.” How much difference does it make? The answer is that it can mean a great deal, as Massachusetts employers keenly recognize in seeking to classify more workers as independent contractors rather than employees these days, in an effort to limit their own responsibilities.

Regular employees get overtime. Independent contractors, by contrast, do not. Employees get unemployment insurance and—importantly—workers’ compensation benefits. Independent contractors do not. As such, how you are classified can me a whole lot in the case of an accident on the job or an injury that prevents you from working.

Recently, Boston taxi drivers have taken a stand against a change in their classification. According to the Boston Globe (quoting Catherine Ruckelhaus),

Taxidrivers in many cities, including Boston, at one time were classified as employees by cab companies. But operators began shifting to a contractor model - Boston switched during the 1970s - which can reduce payroll costs for items such as workers’ compensation by almost one-third[.]

Two Boston cab drivers have sued the City of Boston and private taxi cab operators in Suffolk Superior Court in hopes of a class-action suit on behalf of hundreds of Boston cab drivers. The cab drivers are upset at being classified as independent contractors, failing to be paid minimum wages and overtime, and being forced to pay job-related expenses. This suit, if successful, could dramatically change the landscape for cab drivers in a positive direction.

If you are an independent contractor in Boston and are unclear about your rights, or if you are unclear about your status as an IC or an employee, contact a Boston workers’ compensation lawyer to help answer your questions.

Boston cabdrivers sue city and fleet owners, Boston.com, March 6, 2012

Posted On: March 5, 2012

MA Workers’ Compensation Rates May Increase

According to reports, workers’ compensation rates in Massachusetts may significantly increase in September, if the state approves a proposed increase. The Workers’ Compensation Rating and Inspection Bureau of Massachusetts (WCRIBMA)—a non-profit organization licensed by the MA Division of Insurance that represents companies that write workers’ comp policies— asked the state to approve a 19.3% increase. This increase would raise the cost of employee compensation insurance for MA employers, which they are required to provide under M.G.L. Chapter 152, Section 25A.

We will keep you updated on this and other workers’ compensation developments in Massachusetts. If you have been injured on the job and believe you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, contact a seasoned MA workers’ compensation lawyer.

Workers’ comp rates could go up, Boston.com, March 2, 2012